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For thus he strictly limits the signification of nobility to one and indeed its higher sense; whereas it was probably intended to convey some, though a secondary reference to the
birth-rights of its Author at the same time
an observation founded not only on the context of the whole of this poem, but on the aristocratic tone of all his works. v. xcm, " that
fierce fire." Yon, etc. would be clearer: for it is necessary to show, that there was no painful
&re where Virgil resided. v. xciv, Donna
gentil is made to mean Divine Mercy; without a notion of her having been a real lady. Yet without it, it were hard to enter into the spirit of the author. Who can well express what he does not feel? v. cvm, it is an unreasonable deficiency not to have marked the true signification of the allegorical images " death" and "torrent" ( Humana ): for it is not so obvious, that every reader may discover it. This observation were not made, had Mr. Cary no notes: but he has many that are mere superfluities , when compared with the necessary explanation oi the text. It is to be recollected, Dante was well aware he needed interpretation; and wrote with the intention of commenting himself. -— v. cxxiv, Mr. Cary calls the " three maids" Divine Mercy, Lucia, and Beatrice; an odd
jumble of fact and allegory. In all this, he seems not to have quite understood his original . —— v. Cxlii, he makes cammino alto e silvestro "deep and woody way:" it should be steep, etc. per celsa cacumina, as Aquino translates: for Dante's descending did not prevent the path from being steep.
Having enumerated what I conceive to be his defects (considered merely literally) and repeated , for the last time, my entire disapproval of his style throughout the whole poem, I do not hesitate to avow again that Mr. Car'y's verbal fidelity is in general laudable. Had he written in prose, he might perhaps have been faithfuller to Dante's characteristic concision, and as much so to his various melody as blank verse can well be.
The drawings which I give from time to time, are mere sketches; that pretend to nothing beyond the explication of the text. Particularly as to the topography of Hell (a matter on which so much has been confusedly written) the pencil is occasionally an assistant almost necessary to the pen. With regard to such explanatory drawings, the editions of the DivinaCommedia are very defective: not so, with regard to ornamental ones. Some have lately appeared in Italy embellished in a princely style: but nothing can compare with what we have ourselves. The designs of Mr. Flaxman are of the noblest productions of art, and frequently display a sublime simplicity which is worthy of his great original. Indeed he, who is so able to transfer such creations from one fine art to another, seems of a mind but little inferior to his who could first conceive them. To borrow the words of an excellent Italian sculptor: ' Mr. Flaxman has translated Dante best; for he has translated him into the universal language of nature .'
In undertaking this comment, I am conscious of setting out on a very uncertain enterprize. Life, much less health , no one can calculate on. Yet with these and the encouragement of the public, I shall continue cheerfully. To solicit such encouragement, I send forth the present volume: if it be accorded, a second volume may quickly follow. Protection shall (at least as far mortal vicissitude authorizes a promise) produce attention.